What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, generally referred to as GERD, is a condition in which the caustic acids from the stomach, and sometimes bile, refluxes or flows back up into the esophagus. While many people have experienced the discomfort of occasional heartburn, having GERD is a more serious and on-going problem. This continual acid reflux irritates the lining of the esophagus, or food pipe and it can result in inflammation, ulcers in the esophagus and may even cause a narrowing or the esophagus.
If left untreated, GERD increases the chances of developing esophageal cancer. To fully understand GERD, it helps to understand the some of the processes involved. There is a band of muscle between the stomach and the lower end of the esophagus, and when you swallow, this muscle relaxes, allowing food to move into the stomach.
This muscle acts as a "one-way" valve that allows food into the stomach and prevents the stomach contents from going up into the esophagus. However, if this valve becomes weak, or relaxes abnormally, stomach acids can flow back up into the esophagus causing pain, inflammation and possibly damage to the lining esophagus. When this happens on a regular basis, it is referred to as GERD.
Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease:
- Heartburn (a burning sensation in the chest which may travel up to the throat)
- Chest pain, often worse when lying down
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- The experience of regurgitating food, or sour liquid
- Coughing, hoarseness, sore throat, and wheezing.
What Causes GERD?
The cause of GERD is not fully understood, however, there are a number of factors or underlying conditions that may be associated with the condition. Hiatal hernias, a condition where the stomach pushes up through a hole in the diaphragm muscle is a common cause of GERD. Other common causes and aggravating factors include:
- Abnormally weak contractions of the lower esophageal muscle
- Delayed emptying of the stomach which can acid back-up
- Eating large meals
- Lying down soon after eating
- Cigarette smoking
- Certain medications, such as sedatives, tranquilizers and medication for high blood pressure
- Certain foods including spicy foods, fatty foods, chocolate, caffeine, tomato sauce, carbonated beverages, and mints
- Peptic ulcers
In most cases, GERD can be diagnosed based on patient report of symptoms. However, if you experience any severe pain or find that typical GERD treatments are not working, you physician may want to run some tests. These may include a barium x-ray, an endoscopy, or tests to measure the type and duration of refluxed matter.
Help for GERD
There are a variety of treatment options available to help with GERD, ranging from over-the-counter and prescription medications, surgical procedures and natural herbal and homepathic holistic remedies.
Conventional treatment and prevention for GERD often involves over-the-counter and/or prescription medications. These may include antacids, such as Maalox, or Tums which may neutralize stomach acid and grant quick but temporary relief or symptoms. H-2-receptor blockers, such as Pepcid AC, and Zantac 75 work by decreasing the amount of acid produced, while Proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec and Aciphex work by blocking acid production thus giving the damaged esophageal tissue time to heal.
Prokinetic agents are also sometime prescribed and while they do not reduce the production of acid, they help the stomach to empty more quickly and may help tighten the muscle between the stomach and the esophagus. These drugs may provide significant relief; however, many have unwanted side-effects. In some cases, where GERD is severe or not responding to medication, surgery or other less invasive procedures may be an option.
There are a variety of natural ingredients which can help address the symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease while also promoting over-all gastrointestinal health. For example, Calc phos is of great importance in maintaining healthy tissue cells and keeping gastric juices balanced. This useful ingredient helps to neutralize acidity and balance pH levels in the stomach therefore reducing the burn of acid reflux.
Carbo veg is another great ingredient for those suffering from GERD as it helps calm, the digestive system and reduces excessive gas in your stomach. In addition Nat phos and Mag carb work as a natural acid balancers and help reduce acid pH levels, while easing heartburn, dyspepsia, and other digestive upsets. Another beneficial homeopathic ingredient is Silicea which is a cleansing, eliminating tissue salt often used to remove degenerative matter from the body.